Vermont’s largest city says it’s on-track to meet an ambitious goal to dramatically cut greenhouse gases and boost energy efficiency by the end of this decade.
“This is, by no means, a declaration of ‘mission accomplished’ here,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington, noting he strongly believes the community must maintain a focus on slashing carbon output.
Greenhouse gas emissions in Burlington fell more than 15-percent in 2020, as compared to 2018, according to a new study conducted for the city by Synapse Energy Economics.
People commuting and traveling less during the pandemic was a prime reason why, according to Darren Springer, the general manager of the Burlington Electric Department.
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In 2019, Weinberger charted a path toward becoming a net-zero city by 2030.
The goal calls for embracing renewables and promoting technologies like residential heat pumps to offset carbon use.
City leaders believe their approach is one of the boldest in the country.
“We see ourselves punching above our weight,” said Jennifer Green, Burlington’s sustainability director.
That dip in emissions during the pandemic actually helped put the city slightly ahead of its greenhouse gas reduction goal from 2019-2020, according to the study from Synapse.
Burlington has a long list of ways it aims to maintain that downward line, including expanding bike lanes to reduce car traffic and enacting a charter change that’ll require efficient heating systems in new buildings.
Some unknowns may help, too, Springer said.
“Can we have employers in the area have remote work and telework policies that allow us to not travel as much as we did before the pandemic?” the electric department GM asked, offering an example of one additional way environmental impacts from transportation could be reduced.
Linda Provost, a Burlington homeowner, is doing her part. She said she is now shopping for an electric lawnmower, after buying an electric car.
“Any family that has two cars—one could be all-electric,” Provost suggested. “With the incentives, it’s as inexpensive as any other car.”
City leaders said Monday they’ll be closely watching developments at the federal level on infrastructure funding. Their hope is that investments in green energy systems such as electric vehicle charging stations will help Burlington meet its carbon reduction goals.
Burlington Electric added that 2020 was its best year yet for consumer incentives for heat pumps and electric car purchases.